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Indonesia News Digest 18 – May 9-16, 2007

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 News & issues

Activists want candidates for the poor

Jakarta Post - May 10, 2007

Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta – Aliwaya had promised himself that he would not vote in August's gubernatorial election.

The resident of Cakung, East Jakarta had seen the low and dark side of politics, with politicians treating poor residents like him as objects to gain votes. He said he had had enough with anything to do with the city administration.

"I myself see the discriminatory practices of the administration on poor families. So tell me, what is the benefit of exercising our rights in the upcoming election, because none of the current candidates seems to be pro-poor people," he said.

Aliwaya is one of more than 70 people who attended a meeting organized by the Jakarta Resident's Forum (FAKTA).

He had changed his mind slightly on Wednesday after attending the discussion forum, which involved people from low- to middle- income groups. The gathering concluded that a political bloc of non-partisan members would be soon established.

The bloc, to be called the Working Group of Democratic Networks for the Jakarta Election, will make a social contract for gubernatorial candidates who need their support. "We will issue minimum requirements to be fulfilled by any candidate who wants our backing," said Azas Tigor Nainggolan, the FAKTA chairman.

The requirements would be based on input from members of the working group. "We expect there to be more than one million members of the working group. The members include activists who joined Kiwak in 2002," he said, referring to another group, the Jakarta Resident's Independent Committee (Kiwak).

A strong advocate of direct gubernatorial elections, Kiwak was set up to reject the reappointment of Governor Sutiyoso in 2002 by then president Megawati Soekarnoputri because of his poor performance in preventing floods and other environmental problems in Jakarta.

Kiwak filed a legal notice against Megawati's decree certifying the inauguration of Sutiyoso and Vice Governor Fauzi Bowo.

Azas said that each member was required to recruit new members in their areas. "We will organize regular meetings every Wednesday to sharpen the platform," he said.

In Wednesday's meeting, Azas urged members not to choose candidates with military backgrounds. "One of our points is not to elect any candidate from military," he said.

There are currently three strong candidates for governor, Adang Daradjatun, Fauzi and Sarwono Kusumaatmadja. Retired police general Adang already has the full support of the Prosperous Justice Party.

Incumbent Vice Governor Fauzi has bagged supports from major political parties including the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, the Golkar Party and the Democratic Party. Sarwono is a member of Regional Representatives Council and has been nominated by the Nation Awakening Party and the National Mandate Party.

Dozens injured in bloody clash over university foundation

Jakarta Post - May 10, 2007

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – Dozens of people were injured and scores of cars vandalized in a bloody clash between two disputing parties wanting to lead the foundation responsible for running the North Sumatra Islamic University (UISU) in Medan.

The clash occurred Wednesday morning when a group in favor of Sariani heading the foundation stormed into the university campus which was occupied by supporters of Helmi Nasution.

The brawl, which lasted for more than three hours, caused exams to be postponed at the university. Teachers from a nearby elementary school also postponed final term exams due to safety concerns.

An eyewitness, F. Panggabean, 46, said the clash between the two camps began at 5 a.m. local time.

The witness, who has been living near the campus for several years, said the brawl broke out when hundreds of Sariani supporters in three trucks entered the campus.

The invading party were armed with wooden clubs and conducted a sweeping of university security guards from the Helmi camp before the fight broke out.

"Helmi supporters, who were attacked by Sariani men, fled the campus. Not long after, raging residents arrived at the scene and threw rocks at door and window panes and vandalized campus facilities. The residents were Helmi supporters," said Panggabean, expressing anger over the incident due to the fact her child could not sit the elementary school exam.

Head of organizational affairs and human resources from the Sariani camp, Usman Pelly, said his group had coordinated with police before entering the campus.

Usman said they entered forcefully due to the action taken by Helmi who had mobilized thugs to control the campus.

He added that his group had to assemble around 200 people to oust the thugs who were under the command of the Helmi camp.

A lawyer for the Sariani group, Syahruzal Yusuf, said the men who were deployed to expel the Helmi mob were campus security guards hired to protect the legitimate leader of the foundation.

The internal row within the foundation has continued for some time between Helmi and Sariani who both claim to be the legitimate head of the foundation. The case was heard in the Medan District Court, but a court ruling on the legitimate leader of the foundation was not handed down.

Chairman of the UISU Alumni Association Rafriandi Nasution said his group were disappointed with police who were not quick and assertive in ending the clash.

"I was told that a person was allegedly tossed from the fourth floor and had died but their body is still missing," said Rafriandi, who is also a legislative councillor in North Sumatra.

North Sumatra Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Aspan Nainggolan said police had mobilized hundreds of personnel to prevent the incident from spreading. He also said police would station personnel outside the campus until Monday in anticipation of further clashes.

"We will pull out our personnel when the situation is safe. We have been handling this case very seriously," Aspan said, adding that police have detained 37 people involved in the clash.

Parties unwilling to include women, say analysts

Jakarta Post - May 9, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – Analysts and observers say political parties still lack the vision and the will to reach the ultimate goal of having women make up at least 30 percent of their membership.

"All the major political parties support the idea that women should fill more seats in parliament. However, their agendas have yet to reflect this," said Sri Budi Eko Wardani, director of the University of Indonesia political study center.

Wardani was speaking Tuesday at a seminar on women's representation in legislation, saying most parties only touched on the subject in general meetings instead of setting up a special policy discourse.

"The subject of women in politics is missing or deliberately omitted from discussions in the consolidation of democracy," she said, adding that the 30 percent quota was an unwritten international convention.

Despite positive reactions to gender mainstreaming, all main parties said the issue of giving women greater access to politics had already been addressed, Wardani said.

She based her comments on previous in-depth interviews with 16 top officials from seven political parties, which have a total of 62 women (11.5 percent) out of 550 legislators in the House of Representatives.

The seven parties are Golkar, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), United Development Party (PPP), National Mandate Party (PAN), People's Awakening Party (PKB), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Democratic Party (PD).

"So far, only PAN and PKB have pledged to increase the number of female members, as shown in their budget planning," said Wardani.

She said the 2003 Political Party Law urges parties can have 30 percent female members, although it is not mandatory.

Zulkifli Hasan, a PAN legislator, said his party wanted to reach the 30 percent quota and welcomed more aspiring women to join the party. "Any member can become the chairperson or secretary- general of the party, based on their performance."

Ida Fauziyah, chairwoman of PKB faction at the House, said that based on her observations, female legislators were not placed in strategic positions. "Women have yet to become the decision- makers."

She said that PKB needed to discuss whether to introduce affirmative action to achieve the 30 percent female quota inside its party, or to select people based on their performance regardless of gender. "Hopefully, in the 2014 elections, political parties will already have 30 percent female members," Ida said.

Golkar legislator Ferry Mursyidan Baldan said obstacles in reaching the percentage could be solved by regulating the matter through law. "An article in the Political Party Law should be revised to secure women's positions."

Thousands rally on May Day

Green Left Weekly - May 9, 2007

James Balowski, Jakarta – Tens of thousands of Indonesian workers commemorated May Day across the country demanding an end to contract labour and outsourcing, and for May 1 to be declared a national holiday.

This year's rallies were largely peaceful – unlike last year, which saw a violent clashes in Jakarta between police and workers angered over government attempts to revise the 2003 labour law to further undermine pay and conditions and to facilitate the sacking of workers.

Police deployed some 18,000 officers across the capital with an additional 22,000 fanning out across the greater metropolitan area.

Several rallies were held simultaneously in Jakarta at the national parliament (DPR), the ministry of labour and the presidential palace. In addition to condemning contract labour and outsourcing, protesters also accused the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and Vice-President Jusuf Kalla of allowing foreign companies to exploit local workers and strip Indonesia of its natural resources.

"The government is not pro-people or pro-labour. We have oil, gold mines – but they are owned by foreigners", the activist told around 10,000 workers during a rally at the presidential palace.

The rally was also joined by a contingent of transvestites, gays and lesbians who said they are discriminated against in the formal sector. "In the end many are forced to work in the informal sector as prostitutes. We are demanding that they be allowed to work in the formal sector", said action coordinator Rido Triawan.

Around 5000 workers from the Greater Jakarta Indonesian Metal Trade Workers Federation (FSPMI) also marched from the Investment Coordinating Board to the DPR.

Large rallies were also staged in most of Indonesia's major cities. In the Central Java city of Solo, hundreds of protesters from the Workers Challenge Alliance (ABM) held an action opposing contract labour and calling for a May 1 national holiday.

In the nearby city of Sukoharjo, some 2000 workers rallied at the Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) voicing similar demands. Also in Central Java, victims of mass dismissals in Yogyakarta demanded payment of outstanding severance pay.

A separate rally in Yogyakarta almost ended in a clash when protesters from the Yogyakarta People's and Worker Alliance (ARPY) were harassed by members of the Anti-Communist Front (FAKI) and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). The groups accused the ARPY of being infiltrated by the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas), which they claim is a reincarnation of the banned Indonesia Communist Party.

Thousands of workers took to the streets in the Central Java capital of Semarang in a massive rally at the DPRD and the governor's office. Student activists from student executive councils, the Indonesian Islamic Students Movement (PMII) and the National Student League for Democracy (LMND) also rallied, demanding that abolition of labour contract systems, wage increases and the introduction of pro-worker policies.

As many as 10,000 workers besieged the DPRD in the East Java city of Gresik. In the provincial capital of Surabaya, hundreds of workers and student activists from the Indonesian National Students Movement (GMNI), People's Power, and the Indonesian Youth Front for Struggle (FPPI) held separate protests across the city calling for increase wages and an end to contract labour.

An ABM-led protest by factory workers from Malang, Sidoarjo, Gresik, Pasuruan, Mojokerto, Jombang, Kediri and Jember made similar demands. Jamaluddin from the East Java chapter of demanded a standard national wage, saying: "The working contract system or outsourcing, which [is one source of] injustice, has to be wiped out."

In Jember and Kediri, workers together with activists from the Independent Journalist Alliance (AJI) emphasised the importance of the struggle for justice in Indonesia.

A demonstration by thousands of workers in the West Java capital of Bandung was treated to an unexpected display of "sympathy" by police, who handed out hundreds of boxes of bread and water. Police declined to say whether the gift was a "bribe" to ensure that the workers behaved themselves. Rallying later at the local labour office, protesters rejected contract labour and demanded that workers' rights be respected and that the law on labour affairs be upheld.

In Banten, West Java, around 10,000 workers protesting at the DPRD blockaded the main provincial highway resulting in severe disruption to traffic.

In the North Sumatra capital of Medan some 5000 workers from the North Sumatra Trade Union (SBSU) and the Indonesian Prosperous Trade Union (SBSI) rallied at the DPRD demanding improvements to workers' welfare and that May 1 be declared a national holiday.

Around 1000 workers also made similar demands in the South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar.

Protesters in the Balinese capital of Denpasar protested against the marginalisation of workers in the tourist industry, arguing increasing foreign ownership of tourist related businesses was being followed by rationalisation and downsizing.

Similar rallies were held in other major cities, including Kupang in East Nusa Tenggara, Palembang in South Sumatra and Bandar Lampung.

The first ever May Day commemorations were also held in Aceh. Acehnese protesters said that global capitalism has resulted in workers becoming even more oppressed and sacrificed for the interests of capital.

Speaking before a rally at the DPRD, labour activists called for improvements to workers' welfare, and end to contract labour, wage increases and the abolition of "invisible" fees. They also demanded rights for women workers, such as menstrual leave, maternity leave and transport services for women working at night.

They called on the government to provide free and quality education and health care for the people; boost investment in order to wipe out unemployment; and increase Indonesia's economic competitiveness. "[But] if the investment that is developed does not provide welfare to the Acehnese people, then there is no need for investment", said Rahmat from the Poor People's Democratic Association (PDRM).

Speaking at a news conference in response to the rallies, Kalla – who has been a key mover behind recent a push to again try to revise the labour law to introduce more "market flexibly" to attract foreign investment – tried to belittle the demands by focusing on the issue of a national holiday.

"These [demands] are difficult to meet because labor is a profession", Kalla told Tempo Interactive. "All professions like farmers, soldiers and teachers [could] also ask for their own national holiday." "Even journalists will ask for a holiday", he said.

In relation to contract labour, Kalla said it was a necessary part of many industries. "It's impossible for companies to have a large quantity of permanent workers", he said.

Tsunami survivors demand return

Jakarta Post - May 9, 2007

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – Displaced earthquake and tsunami survivors from Aceh and Nias in North Sumatra still residing in shelters rallied Tuesday at the gubernatorial office in Medan demanding they be immediately able to return to their respective villages.

Over 100 protesters from the Horja Pengungsi group said they had been displaced for the last two years due to a lack of government assistance and employment opportunities.

An earthquake survivor from Nias, Diana Harefa, 30, said she and her family were yet to receive government aid since arriving in Medan two years ago.

The government had promised to provide housing assistance to families when they arrived in Medan but this promise is yet to be realized. Most of the evacuees live in rented houses in Medan and other areas in the province and find it difficult to pay their rent.

"Rental prices continue to rise every year in Medan. This year we have to set aside Rp 2.4 million (approximately US$266) for rent which is impossible for us to do because we find it hard to even put food on the table. My husband is just a pedicab driver," Diana told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Diana said she hoped the government would immediately rebuild their house in Sirombu district, Nias regency, which was destroyed in the earthquake in 2005.

She said her extended family wanted to return home because they could no longer stand living in temporary accommodation.

"We hope the government will rebuild our house in Nias and provide us with start-up capital to open a small business. Hopefully the children will also receive free education," the mother of three said.

Sari Jirahuwa, 37, another quake survivor from Nias, said two of her children attending school in Medan were at risk of not being able to sit their exams in June due to unpaid school fees.

"I must pay Rp 285,000 in school fees before June and if I cannot my children who are both in elementary school cannot sit their exams," Sari said, adding that her husband's daily earnings as a pedicab driver are around Rp 5,000.

A tsunami survivor from Aceh, Lily Suheri, said it had been difficult for her family to make ends meet since arriving at a shelter in Medan due to a lack of job opportunities and support from the government.

Rally coordinator Berwaddin said most of the displaced people from Aceh and Nias still living in North Sumatra did not have permanent jobs and mostly worked as construction laborers and pedicab drivers.

Berwaddin said that based on data collected in December last year, 1,074 displaced people were still living in Medan, Binhai, Langkat, Karo and Deli Serdang in North Sumatra.

The province's Vice Governor Sofyan Nasution said the administration would continue to be active in its efforts to help displaced people and would pay attention to their grievances after carrying out the verification process.

"We require exact data on the number of displaced people who are in need of support," Sofyan said.

 Papernas attacks

Indonesian party presses ahead despite intimidation

Green Left Weekly - May 16, 2007

Vannessa Hearman, Solo – On April 29, the Indonesian National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) again suffered intimidation and disruption of a planned meeting in Sukoharjo, on the outskirts of Solo in Central Java. Members of the Islamic Community Militia prevented the meeting from going ahead by blockading surrounding roads and occupying the venue of the meeting. The district chief of Sukoharjo, Bambang Riyanto, asked Papernas to cancel its meeting, even though the party had obtained the necessary permits.

In response, Papernas is pursuing a complaint against the Sukoharjo police for not upholding the rights of Papernas members to hold their meeting free from intimidation, according to Kelik Ismunanto, a member of Papernas's Central Java leadership committee.

In Yogyakarta on May 1, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Indonesian Anti-Communist Front (FAKI) tried to disrupt a May Day rally held by the Workers Alliance of Yogyakarta, arguing that Papernas had usurped its way into the workers' movement. However they were outnumbered by those mobilising for May Day.

Attacks against Papernas events are occurring across Java. The party's meetings have been disrupted by various Islamist groups, such as the FPI in Jakarta and several towns in East Java and Central Java. These groups claim that Papernas is "neo-PKI (Indonesian Communist Party)" and that it represents the rebirth of communism in Indonesia. Because one of Papernas's initiators was the left-wing People's Democratic Party (PRD) and the party's demands include nationalising the mining industry, abolishing foreign debt and building a national industry, radical Islamic groups have argued that Papernas represents left ideas.

The continuing existence of a prohibition on "Marxist-Leninist teachings" and communism since 1966 has given these kinds of attacks a veneer of legitimacy. Papernas's demands are also unlikely to be popular with the current government and bureaucracy, and there has been no condemnation from government leaders of the forcible closure of Papernas gatherings.

There is not unanimous hostility to Papernas within Islamic groups. Rather, there is some disquiet with the FPI's tactics of using violence supposedly in the name of Islam. There seems to be a coordinated campaign by several Islamic groups, at least in Java, to close down any Papernas gathering. In the majority of cases, Papernas members have negotiated permits with the local police to hold meetings, yet this has turned out to be meaningless. Police have told Papernas members that there is pressure from local military bases for the police not to act. One of Papernas's demands is the disbanding of the military's territorial structure, which means the military is based at every level of the local areas.

Papernas, which was formally launched in January, is in the midst of preparations for consolidating throughout Central Java. The party is preparing to contest the 2009 elections, but it still needs to consolidate its branches and structures across the country. It is involved in talks with different parties in order to build a progressive front.

The party is also facing the prospect of a new law on political parties, currently in draft form, that according to Papernas international relations officer Katarina Pujiastuti interferes excessively with the running of parties, including a provision that party members who "spread Marxist-Leninist teachings" should not be allowed to remain members.

Papernas is discussing its next steps in facing the constant harassment from Islamic groups. It is considering encouraging those who want to act in solidarity with the party internationally to write to the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) to protest the lack of state action to guarantee civil and political rights in Indonesia.

Papernas offices in Central Sulawesi attacked, three hospitalised

Detik.com - May 13, 2007

Arfi Bambani Amri, Palu – Yet again the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) has been physically attacked. This time it was the turn of the Central Sulawesi regional branch of Papernas.

The attack by around 50 unidentified assailants took place at the Papernas offices on Jl. Jl Raja Moili in the Central Sulawesi provincial capital of Palu, on Sunday May 13.

"They arrived unexpectedly, and immediately began hitting and beating us", said the chairperson of Papernas's Central Sulawesi branch, Martin Sibarani, when contacted by Detik.com on Sunday.

As a consequence of the attack, three people had to be rushed to the nearest hospital, one of which is still being treated in intensive care.

"One person was hospitalised, because he suffered very serious injuries. He was hit with a rock on the back of his head. His name is Ikhsan, the head of Papernas's department of education and recruitment for the East Palu sub-district of Palu city", said Martin.

According to Martin, Ikhsan was abducted by the assailants and it is possible that he was badly tortured because strewn about the location where he was found were rocks and a pair of scissors. (aba/aba)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Papernas offices under surveillance prior to Sunday's attack

Tempo Interactive - May 14, 2007

Palu, Tito Sianipar – The secretariat offices of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) in the Central Sulawesi provincial capital of Palu was attacked by a large group of people on Sunday night. "We suspect that they originate from one of the [local military] units", said the chairperson of Papernas's Palu branch Martin Sibarani when speaking with Tempo on Sunday night.

According to Martin, the assailants were heavily built, had short-cropped hair and wore military style boots. Moreover one of the attackers who was caught was private first-class Makmur. "We have (sic) already handed him over to the Palu Military Police Detachment", he said.

As a result of the attack, three people that were at the Papernas offices sustained injuries after being beaten. The three victims are Wira, Ikhsan and Eko Haryanto. "Ikhsan and Wira are currently being treated at the Central Sulawesi Bayangkara Regional Police Hospital", said Martin.

Based on testimonies by the victims and local residents, the 40 or so attackers had already been keeping the Papernas office under surveillance. They even bought cigarettes and phone recharge vouchers from stalls in the vicinity of the office. "Local people were suspicious", he said.

Papernas general secretary Hari Sitorus expressed his regrets over the attack. "We have asked police to investigate the case and find the group of assailants", he said. Hari said that Papernas has appointed the People's Legal Aid Association (PBHR) as their attorney and have reported the attack to police.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Assailants may be soldiers, Papernas demands clarification

Detik.com - May 14, 2007

Arfi Bambani Amri, Jakarta – One of the perpetrators of an attack on the offices of the Central Sulawesi branch of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) is known to be a rogue member of the Indonesian military (TNI). Papernas is urging the TNI to provide an explanation for and to investigate the incident.

"We are seeking clarification, as to whether these kind of actions are [being carried out] systematically by the TNI to discredit our party", said Papernas general chairperson Agus Priyono when contacted by Detik.com on Sunday May 13.

According to Agus a short time before the attack a phone call was received by the Central Sulawesi Papernas office located on Jl. Raja Moili in provincial capital of Palu city. The caller informed them that there would be an attack on the office.

"Police have already traced the phone call, and it is known to have originated from the girl friend of [one of] the perpetrator of the attack who is a rouge member of the TNI private first- class M", said Agus.

Martin Sibarani, the chairperson of the Central Sulawesi Papernas branch confirmed that one of the attackers was a rogue TNI member. However Martin does not know if all of the assailants came from the TNI.

"Based on the testimonies of the victims and local people the one's who attacked were TNI officers. Add to this the admission by the perpetrator that was arrested, named private first-class Makmur. He admitted to being a member of 711 Battalion from the Sub-district Military Command (Korem) 132 Tadulako", explained Martin.

Based upon this incident, Papernas's central leadership board says that there are indications of a systematic attempt to destroy their newly established party. It is systematic because it has happened at in number of different places around the country and the modus operandi is almost identical.

"It is impossible that these [attacks] are spontaneously [carried out] at the local level. There are definitely orders coming from a central command", asserted Agus. (aba/aba)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Soldiers attack Papernas office in Palu, three seriously injured

Kompas - May 14, 2007

Palu – The regional office of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) in the Central Sulawesi provincial capital of Palu was attacked by members of the Indonesian military (TNI) on Sunday May 13 at around 1am local time. Three party activists were beaten and suffered serious injuries.

One of the party members, Ikhsan, was also abducted to a location in Seleksi Tilawatil Alquran, Palu, around four kilometers from the incident. After being interrogated by at least 10 people, Ikhsan was returned and dropped off in the vicinity of the Papernas office.

The three activists who were beaten were M. Ikhsan (20), Wira Arezki (23) and Eko Arianto (24). All three suffered bruising on various parts of their bodies and Wira sustained a slash wound to his mouth.

According to Ikhsan, at around 11.15 Wira received an ominous phone call asking him to go to the Palu Muhammadiyah University camps. When Wira refused the caller said they would come to the Papernas office on Jl. Rajamoili.

An hour later, seven or more motorbikes pulled up and parked in front of the Papernas office. Residents thought that police were conducting an arrest. "They were heavily built, had close-cropped hair and military style boots", said an eyewitness. It was shortly after this that the beatings took place.

One of the perpetrators, private first-class Makmur was arrested by the Palu Municipal police and handed over to the Palu military police headquarters. The commander of the Palu 132/Tadulako Sub- district Military Command (Korem), Colonel Husein Malik admitted that Makmur, one of his subordinates was involved in the incident. He denied however that the attack was premeditated or motivated by the political interests of the TNI.

The chairperson of Papernas's Central Sulawesi branch, Martin Sibarani has lodged a strong protest while branch general secretary Aristan added that the commander of the VII/Wirabuana Regional Military Command (Kodam) and the commander of Korem 132/Tadulako must be held responsible for the incident. (REI)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 Politics & ideology

The positive effects of books on communism

Jakarta Post - May 11, 2007

Setiono Sugiharto, Jakarta – Thousands of history textbooks used in Indonesian schools have been confiscated by officials under the instructions of the Attorney General's Office (AGO), which claims the books could perpetuate a resurgence of communism notoriously linked to the attempted coup of 1965.

Sections of the books are allegedly spreading the teachings of figures such as Karl Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung. The books were also withdrawn from circulation because they bore photos of former Soviet Union president Michael Gorbachev and the Holocaust committed by Nazi Germany.

It is not the first time the AGO has exercised its authority to ban books related to communism. Previously, a number of books on Marxist teachings, written by local scholars, were also seized for similar reasons.

Banning school history textbooks on the grounds that they disseminate communism and depict photographs of well-known communist figures is hardly an acceptable argument. One may seriously inquire as to who has the authority to assert whether or not communism is linked to Indonesia's murky past and claim that it poses a danger to young generations who are eager to study it. With regard to the former, we are still surrounded by endless controversies and left in the dark.

In seeking the truth behind the events of 1965 and the alleged links to communism, we are faced with this question: should we trust the AGO on behalf of the government, or should we rely on the findings of empirical studies published by historians?

It seems that historians, assuming they have a sound knowledge of communism, are more apt to provide reliable information. By shedding light on Marxism and counter-arguing the misperceptions of it, which seem to prevail in our modern society, historians have public accountability. This accountability is evident in their involvement in evaluating history textbooks used in schools.

Whether or not books are worthy of publication as school textbooks is decided on the basis of experts' recommendations to the National Books Center, which is authorized by the Education Ministry as the "national book censorship body". Therefore, the AGO's interference and confiscation of the books seems to be politically, rather than academically, motivated. It is beyond the AGO's authority to do so.

As a reference for history lessons in schools, the textbooks provide information related to different kinds of "isms" (be it Marxism, liberalism, structural functionalism, feminism or post- structuralism), and include photos of their pioneers. Students are exposed to these various schools of thought to help expand their knowledge and foster critical thinking on national and world history.

Furthermore, the books' contents can be used to exchange ideas in the classroom between students, their peers and teachers. With this method, students are given the opportunity to analyze, question, test, critique and even challenge the ideas or concepts written in the textbooks.

The banning and withdrawing of these history textbooks is tantamount to restricting intellectual freedom and will create a phobia of communism among school students. Teachers and students should be given the opportunity to learn different ideologies that both match, and differ from, their own national ideology.

Moreover, most Marxist teachings are irrelevant in this era of globalization. In fact, one can say that the idea of Marxism has become so obsolete that it is no longer able to embrace the complexities and contradictions emerging in this postmodernist era.

Communism should not be something to be feared. Discourse on the resurgence of communism through the publication and circulation of these history textbooks in Indonesia is a sheer gimmick.

As campaigners for democracy, we need to learn to become open- minded and judicious citizens. Different ideologies should not be prematurely rejected and critically unaccepted. As philosopher William James said: "We must be tender-minded in accepting new ideas, but tough-minded in ever accepting them."

[The writer is chief-editor of the Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching.]

Papernas: 'The dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on'

Radar Solo - May 9, 2007

Wibatsu Ari Sudewo, Solo – Over the last two years, the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) has become hot news in the Central Java city of Solo and other parts of the country. This new party has indeed triggered controversy after it was accused of being a reincarnation of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Moreover on account of this antipathy, certain groups have organised hostile actions against their events.

This has not however lessened the determination of those steering the party to continue to grow and develop the party. Like the proverb "the dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on", Papernas continues to forge ahead.

This has also been the case in Solo. Two of Papernas's leaders, the chairperson of the party's Central Java regional management board, Kelik Ismunanto and deputy chairperson Suprapto, say they will continue to lead their party forward. Even though the road ahead is steep and ridden with obstacles lying in wait.

"This has become something we are determined to do. We will continue to build the party regardless of the consequences. The intimidation against us has been an inspiration, that gets the adrenaline pumping to continue to stand tall", said Kelik, one of the founders of the party in Jakarta.

Who then is Kelik Ismunanto? After quick background check, it turns out Kelik is no stranger to Solo. Ten years ago he was well known here as a student activist. He and his sisters and brothers worked hard to voice the people's demands for justice. He also played a significant role in the demonstrations opposing the regime of former President Suharto.

This was when Kelik was still a student at a tertiary education institute in Solo. "I was also involved in various kinds of movement actions and other student based organisations", he said.

In the end it was his courage in opposing hegemony of Suharto and his New Order regime that made a name for Kelik and other activists around the country. It was this also that resulted in Kelik being invited to Jakarta no long ago for a meeting with a number of other former student activists.

Now, it was this meeting that eventually give rise to the idea of forming a new party. This party later became known as the National Liberation Party of Unity, or Papernas. "My friends and I, former student activists, including several from the PRD (People's Democratic Party), which had already been disbanded (sic), students and various labour organisations met in Jakarta", said Kelik.

It was during this meeting that a discourse surfaced about seeking a national identity. As this developed, this discourse grew into the embryo of Papernas. "Because coincidentally I was from Solo, in the end I was chosen to build Papernas in Central Java. [But] one thing was certain, our struggle was for the ordinary people", claims Kelik.

Suprapto meanwhile, who was spontaneously elected to a to become Papernas's deputy chairperson in Solo, admits to being new to the world of party politics. Moreover he also claims to have never having been a member of any political party before. According to Suprapto, his decision not to join any of the existing political parties was essentially based on one thing.

"I never found a party that suited by sense of morals that really and truly sided with the little people. Even when they declared that they sided with [ordinary people], it was only during election campaigns, as soon as they succeeded in taking power, the people were abandoned", he said.

On the question of other organisations, he admits to never having been involved in student or sports organisations. So then, when did he become interested in joining Papernas? According to Suprapto, it happened four months ago.

At the time, he was attending a seminar on nationalism and populist economics that had been organised by a non-government organisation. Agus "Jabo" Priyono – now the general chairperson of Papernas – was one of the speakers on the theme of nationalism.

"He was so articulate in speaking about the issue, it touched my heart. It turned out that aside from myself there were still people who cared about the increasing decline in the a sense of nationalism. After he stepped down from the podium, I introduced myself. Then we exchanged cell phone numbers. Since then we have been communicating with each other", he said.

Nevertheless, Suprapto admits that he only joined Papernas after the founding congress in Kaliurang, Yogyakarta, last January. He also admits that he was not invited to the meeting. The offer to join Papernas was made some time after the meeting.

"As soon as I was shown the statutes and the rules of association, I said yes straight away. In my heart, [I felt that] this was the party I was looking for. Particularly because of the slogan of Tri Panji, which I think is truly orientated towards the people", he said.

Like other parts of the country however, Kelik and Suprapto's efforts to build a Papernas network in Solo encountered opposition. Only, for them it was not an obstacle. Rather, it inspired them to keep moving forward.

"We will continue struggling for the people. The Indonesian people should not be poor. The government is unable to utilise our abundant natural resources for the sake of the people's welfare", said Kelik.

With regard to the party's membership, Suprapto said that his party is open to anyone who has a nationalistic spirit. According to Suprapto, a background as a member of another party is not a problem.

Papernas does not look at the background of its members. Rather, they pay attention to their member's orientation to the future of the nation. "But, what is clear is having a sense of nationalism. That is the most important thing", he said while noting that his party is now attracting more members from youth circles.


Tri Panji - Papernas' Three Banners of National Unity: Repudiating the foreign debt, nationalising the mining industry and building the national industry for the welfare of the people.

[Translated by James Balowski.]


Aceh activists push for truth and reconciliation commission

Jakarta Post - May 12, 2007

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh – An alliance of activists and human rights abuse victims in Aceh have completed a draft on the formation of a truth and reconciliation commission, which they plan to propose to the government.

They said Friday the draft would be made available to the public for suggestions. "It took us a year to complete the draft," said Asiah, chairwoman of the local chapter of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence.

The draft encourages the local government to make a qanun, or sharia bylaw, on a truth and reconciliation commission, as prescribed in the peace agreement signed by the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement in Helsinki, Finland, in 2005. The accord requires the commission to be formed by August.

The 2006 Aceh Governance Law also addresses issued related to the commission and an ad hoc human rights tribunal.

The alliance says that a commission is vital to bring to the surface human rights violations that occurred in Aceh over 30 years until 2005.

Victims and activists have demanded justice over human rights violations during the civil war for some time.

Jakarta has strongly rejected a retroactive human rights law. An estimated 15,000 people died in the course of the conflict between the military and the GAM separatists.

"Unlike the government's draft (on a truth and reconciliation commission), ours is better because the process involved the Achenese community, especially victims," Asiah said.

Representatives of various local non-governmental organizations and rights abuse victims presented the draft in a workshop Friday. The draft also deals with compensation for victims of state violence during the conflict, suggesting it be agreed upon by the government and the beneficiary.

The activists say they hope that the commission's members would have the power to propose whether alleged rights should be taken to the ad hoc court.

Rukaiyah, a rights abuse victim, said the commission should be able to reveal the truth about past abuses in Aceh. Muhammad Husain, 33, another victim, says he is still traumatized to speak of his mistreatment at the hands of the security forces.

"If and when I testify before the commission on what I experienced, would I get arrested?" he said.

International agencies furthering Aceh deforestation: Greenomics

Jakarta Post - May 10, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Post-tsunami reconstruction works in Aceh are contributing to deforestation as reconstruction agencies use timber from illegal logging activities, an environmental organization has alleged.

Local environmental group Greenomics Indonesia accused the government-backed Aceh-Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) and international agencies of using illegal logs.

Greenomics based its accusation on a field survey conducted in April which found reconstruction works in Aceh had used some 850,000 cubic meters of illegal logs. International agencies have used 48 percent of Aceh's illegal logs, while BRR has used 42 percent.

"The remaining 10 percent have been used by disaster victims to repair their damaged houses," Greenomics coordinator Vanda Meutia told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

Vanda added that the survey also found that 85 percent of logs found in Aceh's markets were suspected of being illegally logged in forests in northern Sumatra, especially from the provinces of North Sumatra and Riau.

"The survey shows international agencies, in the name of reconstruction, have occupied the highest rank in the use of illegal logs in Aceh. "Greenpeace should also submit reports on the international agencies' 'performance' to the Guinness Book of World Records," she said.

In reaction to global warming and climate change, Greenpeace has successfully applied to the Guinness Book of World Records to have Indonesia included as having the world's highest annual rate of deforestation between 2000-2005. This citation will be included in the 2008 edition of the book to be published in September.

Vanda criticized Greenpeace for its move, saying international agencies that have been intensively campaigning for global reforestation and sustainable development were also involved in deforestation in tropical countries such as Indonesia.

She also said industrialized countries should be held responsible for global warming and climate changes because they were greenhouse emitters. "The high demand for logs in their markets has indirectly contributed to rampant illegal logging in Indonesia," she added.

Meanwhile, BRR spokesperson Mirza Keumala denied the agency was using illegal logs for construction works both in Aceh and in Nias, insisting BRR was committed to forest preservation in Aceh.

"The Aceh provincial administration should take account of the illegal logging," he said. "If the reconstruction work is using illegal logs, it must be (the fault of) contractors, which are BRR's partners in the reconstruction project. BRR has never tolerated any use of illegal logs in reconstruction works."

Mirza called on local authorities, especially the local police and forestry offices, to enhance their supervision of Aceh's forests to eliminate illegal logging activities there.

 West Papua

Papuan church demand Indonesian police cede control of office

Radio New Zealand - May 16, 2007

Indonesian Police are maintaining control of the Kingmi Synod Church office in the capital of Papua province, Jayapura. Earlier today police arrested dozens of Papuans who were among up to five hundred Kingmi Church members protesting in front of the office.

The demonstration against the occupation of the building by paramilitary and normal police for the past three days has now moved to the Provincial Assembly building.

The church claim the police are violating a court ruling from last year upholding the Kingmi's claim to the office following the church's move to seperate from the GKII church of Indonesia.

Benny Giay from the Justice and Peace Secretariat Catholic Diocese in Jayapura says the church members want their property back.

"They demanded the police chief to uphold that court decision. And they also demanded the police chief remove the police line so the church can reoccupy it (their building) again." He says there are conflicting interpretation of the court ruling.

"According to the Chief of Police, Kingmi church won the court case, but it was not asset or property. That interpretation was only made up by the police because they've been accusing the Kingmi Synod of Papua of being as religious arm of the Independence Movement."

Benny Giay says the church members want their property back, because church is the only institution Papuans have left which Jakarta doesn't control.

Hundreds demonstrate in front of Jayapura synod

Radio Australia - May 16, 2007

First to the Indonesian province of Papua, where police armed with water canon and M16 rifles are occupying a Jayapura church at the centre of a dispute over the synod's independence. Two hundred members of the Gereja Kingmi, the Indigenous Church in Papua, demonstrated in front of the synod office, angered by a police order to handover control of assets to Indonesia's Tabernacle Bible Church. It comes despite a court ruling last month in favour of the Kingmi Church.

Presenter/Interviewer: Bill Bainbridge

Speakers: Matthew Jamieson of the Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights; Reverend Benny Giay, Chair of the Kingmi Church's Bureau of Justice and Peace

Bainbridge: Members of the Kingmi Church in Jayapura claim they are suffering for their independence from Jakarta after their synod was taken over by police on Sunday. A demonstration which blocked traffic for hours outside the synod on Monday failed to resolve the issue. Matthew Jamieson, of the Institute for Papuan Advocacy and Human Rights, describes the scene.

Jamieson: There's a demonstration of 200 people outside the synod office and there was a number of police who came in five trucks and there's the paramilitary police and then there was a water canon. The demonstration of the Kingmi congregation was very peaceful and then the police were also on the top of the synod office with automatic rifles.

Bainbridge: The church was part of the Tabernacle Bible Church of Indonesia, known as the GKII, for more than 20 years but after it moved to become independent the two churches became locked in a dispute over who had the right to control the synod's assets.

Last December police stormed the synod office, injuring two clergymen, and ejecting the Kingmi church members. The matter eventually went to court where in April the Kingmi synod's entitlement to independence was upheld.

But according to the Reverend Benny Giay, Chair of the Kingmi Church's Bureau of Justice and Peace, police are acting to support the GKII. He says the GKII assaulted eight members of his congregation on Sunday in full view of local police officers.

Giay: Police allowed people who support the Gereja church to beat our people, in front of their eyes. We won the court case. But police they've not been able to uphold, to execute that court decision.

Bainbridge: Last year Indonesia's Defence Minister said the Kingmi church was promoting independence and police in the province accused the church of links to the Free Papua Movement. It's an accusation that church members reject. Matthew Jamieson again.

Jamieson: The police say that, but of course they've been trying to advocate the rights of the people. But the police and the Indonesian military don't seem to differentiate between what's the Free Papua Movement and what are the people.

Bainbridge: And he says the church members have good reason to prefer to be independent of any Jakarta backed church.

Jamieson: The church members and the church themselves have been very active in issues of peace and justice in West Papua and the church. Principally the members of the church live in the Highland areas of Papua... and these are remote island areas where there's been ongoing military operations for the last few years and this is the sort of area where the most genecidal part of Indonesia's occupation of West Papua continues.

Bainbridge: Matthew Jamieson believes the police are probably being directed from Jakarta.

Jamieson: It's pretty clearly that it's politically motivated, so you'd have the sense that it comes from Jakarta or at least from the inside the police, high up in the police or high up in the military.

Bainbridge: Pastor Giay says he will meet representatives of the GKII to try to resolve the issue and he is calling for Jakarta to support the right of the Kingmi Church to run their own affairs free of government interference and intimidation.

West Papua - Staple Damage

Tempo Magazine - May 15-21, 2007

Pius Nimaepa inhaled his clove cigarette smoke deeply when Tempo visited him at the end of March. The 60-year-old Ayuka tribal chief sat cross-legged on a wooden chair under a tree in front of his house in Ayuka village, Mimika Timur Jauh district, Mimika regency, Papua.

Ayuka is located west of a stream where the tailings of mining operations by PT Freeport Indonesia (FI) are dumped. From Timika town, Ayuka is about 40 kilometers to the south. This village is inhabited by 66 families of the Kamoro ethnic group, owners of the communal land in the mining area. They live in two-room stone houses built with the aid of the American giant mining company.

Pius kept puffing away as he spoke. In a soft tone, the chief mumbled his complaint about the color of sago (Metroxylon sagu) now losing its pleasant taste. "Our sago is no longer white," lamented Pius. He pointed to the leaves of sago plants over an area 15-16 kilometers from Timika town, which are withering and falling with rotting stems. "The trees will perish," said Pius.

Pius knows the staple food very well. Before contamination, sago is clean white and will not decompose quickly when stored. On the other hand, decaying sago due to pollution, according to him, will develop black spots in storage.

The same is true of sago flour, which lasts only for a week at most. "It smells like sewage, tastes like marsh water," said Stevanus Nimaepa, Pius's son. Despite the unpleasant taste, noted Pius, Ayuka people continue to consume sago with no other food alternative. In order to obtain clean white sago, local residents have to go to a coastal area some 25-30 kilometers from Ayuka. "We want to eat rice but it's expensive," Stevanus added.

And it's more than just sago that goes bad. Duri fish as Ayuka villagers' favorite has also changed in shape and dies easily. The fish was originally fleshy. Now only its head grows big, with a small tail and a flavorless taste. "We get itchy all over when we eat it," claimed Stevanus, who no longer hunts boars and cassowaries. These animals are hard to find today.

Is it true that the tailings from FI's mining activities have pervaded and polluted the sago forest in Ayuka? FI has certainly denied this. According to Freeport, the inundation in the sago grove is due to downpours. "It's all because of the heavy rain rather than any breach of the dams [of tailing pools]. None of the dams has ever been breached," said FI Corporate Communications Manager, Mindo Pangaribuan.

Nonetheless, Mindo acknowledged his firm had examined the water in the location. "We once surveyed the area. It's true that the strong water current had caused the sago zone to be flooded. But it's not a tailing stream because the tailing river has been diverted to another place. It's a natural flow of sediments, a natural stream flowing from the north," explained Mindo.

According to Mindo, tailing deposits are channeled to an area shielded by western and eastern dykes. Therefore, according to him, the tailing definitely will not cause any harm to the plants in Ayuka. "So, if the sago becomes yellow or has an unpleasant taste, I have nothing to comment as I have no idea myself," he argued.

However, Mimika regency Secretary Wilhelmus Haurissa said FI had to be responsible for the environmental impact arising from its mining activities. "Freeport remains responsible for the environment," said Wilhelmus at the end of March.

FI has the right to deny the charges. But the fact was revealed by Commission VII of the House of Representatives (DPR) two years ago. People's sago plantations in the downstream area of Ajkwa River had turned into a "desert." Three major rivers in the FI operational zone were found by visiting legislators to have been polluted. At the time, the DPR urged that FI reduce its tailing capacity in Aghwagon River, Papua, which reached 250,000 tons daily. Based on the DPR monitoring, FI's tailings triggered increasing environmental damage.

The DPR study indicated that the ecological destruction in the zone was extensive. It covered the main rivers in Mimika regency: Aghwagon, Otomona, and Ajkwa, as far as the Arafura Sea around 80 miles away. The downstream part of Ajkwa River was converted into a waste dump or modification deposit. The tailings accumulated in a vast area, involving about 230 square kilometers (or a third of the Jakarta territory). It was the area where locals' sago estates were reportedly destroyed.

Destruction also affected the upstream area: Mount Yet Segel Ongop Segel (Grasberg), a sacred mountain of the Amungme tribe. It was already transformed into a lake owing to continuous dredging. A gigantic hole gaped with a depth of around 700 meters.

In the three main rivers, the water had dried up and the streams became tailing channels. Lake Wanagon, also an Amungme sacred place, was devastated. The Amungmes claimed FI had changed it into an acidic and toxic waste dump.

In 2000, a slide of the waste heaped up in Lake Wanagon was reported. Four workers of FI's subcontractor were said to have been killed. The capacity of Lake Wanagon perhaps could no longer support the huge quantity of mining waste.

The website of the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) referring to results of a Landsat-TM satellite imaging study in 2000 pointed out that FI tailings had contaminated a land area of 35,820 hectares. For this reason, in 2005, Commission VII of the DPR requested Freeport to lower its production capacity or review its tailing disposal system. It was proposed that the waste should not entirely be discarded into the three rivers. It should first be deposited in the upstream section before further channeling.

In certain proportions, the tailing from mining activities is not hazardous. By comparison, PT Newmont Minahasa with its 2,000 tons of daily tailings once triggered a public stir with the Buyat Bay pollution case. Meanwhile, FI produces 250,000 tons of tailing daily.

FI does have an environment impact analysis document on the disposal of its tailings. But the approval of this document could probably be very subjective. FI has also provided compensation for surrounding residents in connection with environmental damage. For instance, it guarantees clean water for people in the upper mining area. It has set aside 1 percent of its total production costs for local community development needs. The total fund for this purpose has reached 4 percent or US$660 million a year (around Rp2.5 trillion).

The role of FI in Indonesian government revenue is also quite significant. As proof, when FI's employees staged a rally and went on strike recently, Minister of Energy & Mineral Resources Purnomo warned against any production halt by FI. The reason being that any stoppages will considerably affect the government's income.

Freeport Indonesia is reportedly in control of the world's largest gold reserves and the third largest copper mine in the world. The economic value of these mineral deposits is estimated at US$40 billion, broken down into 25 billion pounds of copper, 40 million ounces of gold and 70 million ounces of silver.

[Tjahjono EP, FS.]

Military commander: Traitors of the nation must be destroyed

Cenderawasih Post - May 12, 2007

Jayapura – The Regional Military Commander of 172/PWY of Papua, Colonel Kav Burhanudin Siagian stated that the main enemies of the state are those who have enjoyed the nation's facilities, but who still do actions against the stability of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. Traitors like them are the ones that must be destroyed.

"If I meet any one who has enjoyed the facilities that belong to the state but who still betray the nation, I honestly will destroy him" he said.

According to the Regional Military Commander, he had to make that statement because recently there had been individual students or youths who said that they represented certain organizations and who were under the influence of influential leaders in Papua, who had tried to raise the issue of the Act of Free Choice. They had wanted to claim that the 1969 Act of Free Choice was illegal and therefore there needs to be a new Act of Free Choice. However, the commander said that based on the historical facts, Papua has already become part of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia.

"We should not try to reveal what has happened in the past because this is the time we should think of development in Papua" he stated.

The commander himself gave example of East Timor where when they were still under the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, there was some development. However, after they separated from Indonesia now we could see that there isn't any development. What we see now is that the nation [East Timor] is in turmoil. They even become enemies of themselves and create unstable security in the nation. So the Regional Military Commander hopes that the people of Papua especially those who have different perceptions, will NOT think about separation from the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia but to think of developing Papua.

"Now there is a Special Autonomy, it is better for the Papuans to use this opportunity to build Papua to become more prosperous and do not think to follow the influences from abroad that have intentions to destroy the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia."

When the Commander was questioned about the existence of Mathias Wenda and Goliath Tabuni as the leaders of OPM and the ones who always create troubles and conflicts in Papua, the Commander said that they are not enemies but they are our brothers who still have different perceptions. They are the ones that need to be advised and educated about the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia so later they could change their minds and become citizens of the Republic of Indonesia.

"I urge my brothers who are still in the jungles to come out and join with us to build Papua towards a better future. This is not the time to fight as enemies" he stated.

Commander Siagian used this opportunity to urge the students and the intellectuals who are still pursuing their study not to try to reveal and dig the past history but to study very well so they could succeed one day and build Papua.

"Do not do demonstrations or any activities which are not useful. Use your time to study so you would become a successful person" he added.

[Translated from Malay]

Music for West Papuan freedom

Green Left Weekly - May 9, 2007

[Merdeka: Artists from around the world unit in support of the independence movement in West Papua. Dancing Turtle Records, 2007. Only available from . Reviewed by Vannessa Hearman.]

Merdeka is a Malay or Indonesian word meaning freedom or independence. This album, Merdeka, is a compilation of music from around the world in support of the independence movement of West Papua. All funds from the sales go to support West Papuan refugees. There continue to be Papuan refugees over the border in Papua New Guinean territory. Australian musician, David Bridie spearheaded musical efforts here to raise consciousness about West Papua. The torch has been passed on to Dominic Brown, who compiled this album.

Sound recordings or tracks from West Papua or West Papuan groups, such as the Mambesak cultural and dance group, are well- represented. The singing of the Illaga village people in the Central Highland of West Papua is included, such as in the opening track "Prelude". This is followed by a track "Guit Save Papua" featuring sections of speeches by West Papuan activists speaking out about the struggle of their people for freedom from Indonesia and the crucial role of international support, played over the backdrop of rhythmic percussion rising and falling with some electronic sounds punctuating the percussion. "Celestina" is a beautiful track from Madagascar by Modeste Hugues Randriamahitasoa with simple, gentle, lilting guitars and beseeching vocals. This track should get you hooked firmly into the rest of the album.

Demonstrating the growing awareness about the issue, bands from many different countries such as Madagascar, Ireland, Romania and Brazil feature on this compilation. This results in some very diverse sounds, but it's also striking how similar music can be in terms of its influences and sounds, even when musicians are separated by vast distances and cross-cultural collaborations abound in this album.

This is a compilation that has been put together carefully to give listeners a sense of Papuan music and culture, as well as some wonderful tracks from other parts of the world. All 20 listed tracks, which include the West Papuan sound recordings, are thoroughly intriguing and wondrous.

Zina Saro-Wiwa wrote and produced "Soon Come" by Copperqueen in a musical collaboration between Nigerian, British and Brazilian musicians. Samba is also given a star turn in one of the tracks on this album, "Brazil Yori", as is "samba jazz" in "Agua de Beber" by the band New Samba Jazz. The beautiful Zambian piece "Ubukwa" by Dominic Kakolobango is perhaps more familiar, but is also a new twist on African music.

The album contains an overview of the West Papuan issue in the sleeve notes and refers listeners to a website on West Papuan independence, as well as individual band websites. There is a sense of urgency for the world to act to stop the genocide of 400,000 Papuans. Australia's proximity to West Papua, its shameful role in the continuing occupation and the arrival in 2006 of West Papuan refugees by boat on Cape York all mean that West Papua should have a higher profile in this country than any other. But that may not be the case. This CD is another important way to profile this issue worldwide.

There are fantastic, incredible sounds on this album. Too often compilation albums are just too diverse and eclectic. If you are looking for a classy, confident and thought-out compilation that will expose you to lots of new sounds and also contributes to a better world, order this album from the website. With a world album as diverse as this dedicated to it, perhaps West Papua's time indeed has come. Let's hope so.

 Human rights/law

State enterprise transparency debated

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2007

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – The transparency of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) remains a source of hot debate in the deliberation of the freedom to access public information bill at the House of Representatives.

With the government insisting SOEs be made exempt from the bill and the House arguing for the opposite, observers say the debate has reconfirmed the strategic and financial importance of state firms to certain political interests.

State Minister for State Enterprises Sofyan A. Djalil said last week the government's wish to keep these state enterprises out of the bill's scope was non-negotiable, and insisted that information regarding business strategies should be protected to ensure sound competition.

Sofyan was formerly the communication and information minister, the post under which he was representing the government in the deliberation of the bill. Last Monday he was handed the state enterprises portfolio by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in the Cabinet reshuffle.

Despite the stance of hard-liners in its ranks, the House has offered concessions to enterprises on the information they can keep confidential, said Tosari Widjaja of the United Development Party (PPP) faction and chairman of the House's working committee responsible for the bill's deliberation.

"We've offered compromises to allow business strategies to not be accessible to the public. But say these firms get subsidies worth billions, don't we have the right to know what its being used for?" he asked Tuesday at a discussion on the bill.

Tosari reiterated that state enterprises are financed by the public's taxes and are justifiably subject to public access and scrutiny.

The government maintains, however, that a degree of transparency within these enterprises is upheld by the law on state enterprises and the holding of stakeholders meetings.

State enterprises are believed to have been cash cows for the powerful, who used them for personal or collective gains and left them incessantly cash-strapped despite numerous profitable periods.

Companies such as flag-carrier Garuda Indonesia and state oil and gas producer PT Pertamina have been continuously mired in financial mismanagement due to the opacity of their capital and cash flows.

Tosari said most legislators on the working committee shared the opinion that state enterprises should be subject to public access.

Critics have insinuated, however, that money politics die hard, a stance substantiated, perhaps, by the powerful backing given to the government at the House by Vice President Jusuf Kalla's Golkar Party and the President's Democratic Party. Golkar has the largest faction at the House.

The current draft of the bill lists nine criteria that information must satisfy to be withheld from the public's eye. Among them is information that, if revealed, endangers efforts to prevent and handle crimes; endangers national security; disturbs relations with other countries or violates individuals' privacy in a way not related to public matters.

Exempted information will be regulated in an ensuing bill on state secrecy.

When the bill is passed into law, the public will have the right to seek information from the affected institutions – those financed by the state budget and those that are public service orientated – on their services and activities.

There will be a commission on information, comprising two government officials and five members of the public, to settle disputes on the accessibility of certain information.

Refusal to provide information by an institution is subject to a maximum five-year jail term, while misuse of the information is subject to two years.

Proposed constitutional amendment under threat

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2007

The planned plenary session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to amend the 1945 Constitution is under threat after the Golkar Party withdrew its support for the amendment, decreasing the number of amendment proponents to well below the required threshold.

Golkar followed the Democratic Party (PD), which earlier retracted its support for unspecified reasons for an amendment to Article 22 (d) of the Constitution to empower the Regional Representatives Council (DPD). Eleven Golkar lawmakers originally gave their support to the DPD-proposed amendment.

Golkar figures were unavailable for comment on the political reasons behind the retraction, which came only one day after the MPR announced its plan to hold the plenary session.

The MPR is a joint sitting of both the DPD and the House of Representatives. The House has 550 legislators while the DPD has 128 representatives.

The chairman of the Golkar Party faction at the MPR, Hajriyanto Tohari, confirmed his party's decision to allow more time for further analysis of the proposed amendment and its political consequences.

"It is not the right time to amend the Constitution, since it has been amended four times between 1999 and 2002," he said, adding that he would deliver a formal retraction to the MPR's leadership Wednesday.

With the withdrawal of Golkar's political support, the number of amendment proponents drops from 234 to 223. The Constitution requires at least 226 supporters before the MPR can hold a plenary session to amend the constitution.

Regional representatives said they are optimistic of winning more support from lawmakers to allow the plenary session to be held later this year in September.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle opposed the proposed amendment on the insistence that a bicameral legislative system is not recognized by the Constitution.

Defense Ministry pursues House ratification of defense treaties

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2007

Jakarta – The Defense Ministry is synchronizing key issues for the implementation of the recently-signed defense treaties between Indonesia and Singapore as part of efforts to persuade the House of Representatives to ratify the documents.

Indonesia and Singapore signed a defense cooperation agreement and a military training area agreement in Bali last month, but must wait until these treaties are ratified by the respective Houses of the two countries.

"We are now synchronizing articles of the implementation arrangement between the armed forces of the two countries," Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono told reporters Tuesday on the sidelines of the inauguration of two officers at the Defense Ministry.

Vice Adm. Soemardjono replaces Vice Adm.(ret) Iman Zaki as inspector general of the Defense Ministry, while Rear Adm. Tedjo Edi Purdianto replaces Rear Adm.(ret) Yuwendi as director general of defense planning.

"Synchronizing the implementation arrangement is part of a process to persuade the House, as well as the people, that the content of these agreements, the treaty on extradition and the defense cooperation agreement, does not lessen the sovereignty or the national interests of either of the two countries," he added.

Juwono said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had ordered him and Foreign Affairs Minister Hassan Wirayuda to settle the ratification with commission I of the House. Ratification hinges on the discussion between the two ministers and the House on the framework of the agreements, as well as on crucial articles.

Juwono said the agreements would facilitate the interests of the two countries. "This is a deal. We need to return many assets that were taken to Singapore, and at the same time Singapore needs space for training. This has become a heated issue only because it involves Singapore, which is usually an easy target for people in the House," Juwono said.

Indonesian training fields that could be used by the Singaporean military include Bravo area offshore Natuna and Ara Island in the Karimata Strait, both in the Riau Islands, for naval training; Baturaja in South Sumatra for army training and Alfas I and II in Tanjung Pinang and Natuna for air force maneuver training.

Juwono said the defense and extradition agreements were signed simultaneously because an agreement between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Oct. 24, 2005, in the Tampak Siring State Palace in Bali required the synchronized implementation of extradition and military cooperation.

"Developments in one agreement must refer to developments in the other agreement, but do not necessarily have to be linked to each other. Parallel, but not necessarily linked to each other, that was the term used," Juwono said.

Secretary general of the Defense Ministry, Lt. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin, said his ministry would hold a working meeting with House Commission I for foreign affairs, defense and information on May 28 to explain in detail the agreements.

AGO, police team up for Munir case

Jakarta Post - May 12, 2007

Alvin Darlanika Soedarjo, Jakarta – Attorney General Hendarman Supandji said Friday the Attorney General's Office (AGO) would coordinate with the National Police to re-investigate the criminal elements surrounding the 2004 murder of human rights activist Munir Said Thalib.

"I have examined the Munir murder case and hopefully the National Police will help us provide more evidence in our attempt to consolidate the dossiers for the review of the case," he told reporters at his office.

The dossiers pertain to a review of the Supreme Court's decision to acquit off-duty Garuda Indonesia pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto of all murder charges.

Pollycarpus was on the same flight as Munir from Jakarta to Singapore. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison by the Central Jakarta District Court in December 2005 for his then-believed involvement in the murder.

The Supreme Court later overruled this verdict, sentencing him instead to two years in prison for forging his assignment letter to appear as an aviation security officer. The letter was signed several days after the murder.

Hendarman said investigators had only one chance to succeed in examining the murder case. "If this fails, then it's over. It's like constructing the foundations of a building. We cannot let the wind throw it down."

Munir died of arsenic poisoning on Sept. 7, 2004, while aboard a Garuda jetliner bound for the Netherlands after having departed Singapore, where he was in transit.

Speculation abounds on the exact location of Munir's poisoning. Singer Ongen Latuihamalo is suspected of involvement in the murder after it was revealed he met Munir at Singapore's Changi Airport during transit.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Sisno Adiwinoto told The Jakarta Post the police had handed over its evidence to the AGO.

"We handed the (extra) evidence to (the AGO) before we named the last two suspects (from Garuda)," he said, referring to former Garuda president Indra Setiawan and Rohainil Aini, the secretary to Garuda's chief pilot.

Sisno added that the police had the right to conceal the extra evidence from the public because it had already been handed over to prosecutors.

Don't choose rotten judges, say activists

Jakarta Post - May 10, 2007

Jakarta – Activists and observers are demanding that the Judicial Commission and the House of Representatives prioritize quality over quantity in selecting candidates for Supreme Court judgeship.

The Judicial Commission, as mandated by the Constitution, is responsible for selecting potential Supreme Court justices, who must then be screened by the House of Representatives through a fit-and-proper test.

To fill the six currently vacant positions on the Supreme Court, the commission recommended six candidates to the House of Representatives on Nov. 6, 2006. However, on Nov. 15, the House postponed the fit-and-proper test because Article 18 of the 2004 Law on the Judicial Commission requires at least three candidates for each vacant position.

As a result of this decision, the Judicial Commission held another selection round this year and fulfilled the House's demands by listing 16 more candidates from among the 105 applicants.

"We don't expect that the Judicial Commission will only look for quantity and sacrifice the quality of judges," said Emerson Yuntho, from Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), during a meeting between commission members and activists from the Judicial Watch Coalition on Wednesday.

"We are afraid that in order to avoid objections from the House, the commission will force itself to pass 12 new candidates, although they may not be qualified," Emerson said.

The Judicial Watch Coalition comprises 10 rights organizations including the ICW, the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Institute for a Criminal Justice System, the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation.

The coalition requested that the commission not choose judges wishing only to see out their careers on the Supreme Court. "If the commission forces itself to pass through any problematic candidates, we will have more problems and a worse court mafia than ever," Emerson said.

Citing the 2003 selection of members for the National Human Rights Commission, Ori Rahman from Kontras said the commission should avoid selecting incapable candidates.

Ali Nursahid, also from Kontras, said that considering the previous court's history of granting impunity to alleged rights violators, a careful investigation into the backgrounds of candidate justices is required.

"From three cases of human rights violations that have been tried, namely the Abepura, Tanjung Priok and East Timor cases, the Supreme Court, which should guard human rights enforcement, to the contrary perpetrated impunity upon the perpetrators," Ali said.

He urged the commission to base its selections on international standards such as the candidate's expertise in international law and human rights.

In response to activists' anxieties, the head of the commission, Busyiro Muqoddas, said the commission had learned from the first round of candidate selections and improved its methodology.

Busyiro said the unexpected decisions regarding the human rights cases were not only related to the intellectual capacities of the judges but also to their mentalities.

He agreed that the commission should prioritize quality over quantity, and that notions of quality should be based on clear standards and criteria.

Munir murder case: Fighting over Ongen

Tempo Magazine No 36 - May 8-14, 2007

The key witness in the Munir murder case is now under police protection. Upon arriving from Holland, he became the subject of a fight between the police and state intelligence.

The two-story house in a housing complex in the Jurangmangu area of Tangerang, Banten, has been unoccupied for almost two weeks. The fence gate is fastened with a padlocked chain. The neighbors do not know where the family of Ongen Latuihamallo, the musician who occupied the house, now lives.

One afternoon two weeks ago, four police picked up Ongen's wife, Etha Pattinasarany, their two daughters and a servant who works at the house. "His dog and car were also taken away," said a neighbor, a middle-aged man who preferred to remain anonymous.

According to a Tempo source in the National Police, the family was evacuated after receiving a number of threatening phone calls. The calls are believed to be connected with Ongen being named as a key witness in the murder of human rights activist Munir two and a half years ago.

National Police Headquarters spokesperson Insp. Gen. Sisno Adiwinoto has refused to give out details regarding the security being provided to Ongen's family. He was only prepared to state that police are protecting all of the witnesses in the Munir case. "Protection is also being provided to families of witnesses," he said.

Ongen is believed to have knowledge pertaining to Munir's murder on the morning of September 7, 2004. A number of witnesses saw him sitting at the Coffee Bean cafe in the transit area of Changi International Airport in Singapore, together with Munir and a man who is believed to be Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, a Garuda Airlines pilot who was once a defendant in the case. Several hours later, Munir died aboard Garuda GA-974 during the flight to Amsterdam.

One of the witnesses who saw the three men sitting together at the Coffee Bean was 25-year-old SA. The business-class passenger claims to have seen a tall longhaired man. Moments before re- boarding the flight, a passenger sitting in the seat next to him introduced the man as Ongen (see Tempo April 30, 2007 edition).

Comr. Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri, head of the National Police's Criminal Investiga-tion Bureau says that inves-tiga-tors are cur-rently exa-mining all of the activities that took place in Cha-ngi at that time. According to Bambang, this is a part of the investigation process because the results of a forensic test in Seattle, United States concluded that the arsenic poison that killed Munir was ingested while he was in transit at Changi. This differs from the conclusions reached by previous investigators who declared Munir was poisoned during the Jakarta-Singapore leg of the flight.

According to a Tempo source in the police, Ongen was picked up two weeks ago at Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Cengkareng, by a team investigating the Munir case headed by Police Commissioner Daniel Tifaona. The composer of spiritual songs had only just arrived from Holland where he frequently appears on stage at the Night Market.

Ongen was picked up by dozens of police from a unit comprising officers from National Police HQ and the Tangerang District Police. After being met at the aircraft's cabin door he was taken away via different route from the other passengers. Ongen was then immediately placed in a car that had stopped in the aircraft parking area.

According to a source, it was when police were taking Ongen to the car that a second car suddenly approached them. The two occupants of the car immediately got out and rushed towards Ongen, and attempted to wrest the uncle of pop singer Glenn Fredly from the hands of the police. "A fight broke out before the Munir team rushed Ongen away in the car," said the source.

The same source said that the two men later ad-mitted to being intelligence officers. "I seems that Ongen's arrival from Holland was also known about by intelligence agents," they added.

No officials from the National Police have been prepared to confirm the incident. Tangerang District Police Deputy Chief Assistant Commissioner Golkar Pangarso, who is reported to have arrived during the incident, refused to offer an explanation. "We were only supporting the team from the National Police HQ," he told Tempo.

Tangerang District Police Chief Assistant Commissioner Toni Harmanto also claims not to know about the incident. According to Harmanto, police in his area were only responsible for guarding Ongen's house. "We were monitoring the house, whether or not there had been a request, because it is located in our area of responsibility," he said.

If it is true that intelligence agents were involved in the "action" when Ongen was being picked up, it further strengthens accusations of the involvement of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) in Munir's murder. Moreover according to lawyer Heru Santoso, investigators have also asked about the relationship of his client-Garuda CEO Indra Setiawan who is now a suspect in the case-with the intelligence agency.

According to Heru, during Indra's questioning investigators asked whether Indra was acquainted with any BIN officials. As the head of a state-owned enterprise, he explained that Indra often met with officials from BIN. "But that doesn't mean that they were in communication," said Heru.

BIN has been suspected from the start because there was communication between Pollycarpus's phone and a cellphone usually used by Muchdi Purwoprandjono, who at the time was BIN's Deputy Director for Agent Mobilization. There was also communication between Pollycarpus's number and a telephone at Muchdi's office in the days leading up to Munir's death. As it happens Pollycarpus also called Munir's telephone number on September 2 and September 6, 2004.

Muchdi and Pollycarpus have said on a number of occasions that they did not know each other. On the question of his cellphone, Muchdi stated that close friends often used it. "I don't think I was ever in contact with Pollycarpus or his family," said Muchdi when questioned by investigators on May 18, 2005.

In order to uncover the mystery surrounding Munir's death, among other things police are now pinning their hopes on Ongen. A Tempo source said that he is now being hidden at a location along with his family. According to his neighbors, police maintain control of their house on a daily basis.

Uniformed police frequently conduct patrols in front of Ongen's house. Sometimes there are police who ride motorcycles wearing short trousers. "There are also [police] that sleep overnight in the guardhouse until morning," said a neighbor pointing to the guardhouse at the end of the lane.

According to a motorcycle taxi driver who is usually based at the housing com-plex,- Ongen is a good man. Although he comes from Ambon, they consider Ongen's behavior to be even more refined than that of a Javanese. "He often drives his Opel Blazer, Pak Ongen always greets us," said a motorcycle taxi driver.

From the look of the exterior walls of their house, the Ongen family gives the impression of being religious. Two reliefs are on display in the shape of a cross and a picture of Jesus. Hanging on the front door of the house there is also a decoration with the writing: "God bless this house."

[Budi Setyarso, Arif A.K., Irmawati.]

 Government/civil service

'We trust clerics more than SBY'

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2007

Jakarta – Politicians have never been regarded as the most popular of people, and a recent leadership survey by the Islamic and Societal Research Center (PPIM) would seem to suggest that nothing has changed.

The survey, which ran from January through March this year, revealed that Indonesians trusted their religious leaders more than any other individual or institution, including the President.

"Our survey shows that 41 percent of respondents say that they trust the country's religious leaders, while an equal 22 percent of them lay their trust with the President and the Indonesian military," PPIM executive chairman Jajat Burhanuddin told a media conference, as quoted by detik.com news portal.

"Another 16 percent say they can trust the police institution, and an equal 11 percent trust the People's Consultative Assembly and the House of Representatives. And only 8 percent of the respondents said they trust the political parties," he added.

The survey questioned 200 respondents between 16 and 70 years of age. Some 42 percent of them lived in the cities, and the remaining 58 percent in villages.

Jajat said the survey showed that religious factors played a more significant role than politics.

Prominent Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra said the survey also pinpointed the fact that the state institution was weaker than religious ones. "Our state institution is on a declining trend."

He said the National Police's inability to handle the mass riots in 1998 was a symptom of this. "The police did not have the capacity to deal with the riots, while politicians could not do anything to put an end to them," Azyumardi, former rector of the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, said.

He suggested that Pancasila, the national ideology, needed to be revived. "We do not need to change the ideology, but give Pancasila a greater role in solving the problems of the nation," he said, in reference to another aspect of the survey which revealed that Pancasila remains the preferred national ideology.

Jajat said the survey showed that after the fall of president Soeharto people still preferred Pancasila to Islamic sharia, despite the fact that over 80 percent of the country's 220 million people are Muslims.

"Only 22.8 percent of the respondents want Islamic sharia as the state's ideology... The much greater remaining percentage chose Pancasila," Jajat said.

He said respondents had put religion as the most important factor in determining the identity of the nation, with some 41.3 percent of them supporting the idea. Another 24.6 percent chose nationhood as the national identity, while the rest chose occupation, ethnicity, social status and political party membership as their identity.

The survey also showed that 63.9 percent of the respondents agreed on equal distribution of power between Jakarta and the regional administrations nationwide, another 22.8 percent wanted Jakarta to take control of most of the country's government affairs, another 8.3 percent opted for a federation system, 0.8 percent chose to separate from Indonesia and 14.1 percent abstained.

SBY's road to reelection seen as uphill and onerous

Jakarta Post - May 12, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Despite maintaining good ties with most of his supporting parties, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will nonetheless face major political hurdles in seeking reelection in 2009, a political analyst says.

Eep Syaefullah Fatah, a lecturer at the University of Indonesia, said the President's chances of reelection depend greatly on his performance in the second leg of his presidency and on the quality and acceptability of his rivals in the 2009 presidential election.

"The second half of the administration will be a real political campaign for him to demonstrate to the people all his achievements following his government's dissatisfying performance in the first half," Eep said here Friday during a discussion on the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

"He will not be easily defeated if his rivals in the presidential election are Megawati Soekarnoputri, Amien Rais and other political figures whom he defeated in the 2004 presidential race."

Eep said SBY needs to work harder to address poverty, unemployment and several other problems his government has been unable to resolve in the past two and half years if he is to redeem the votes he received in the last presidential election.

By the end of last year, the number of families living under the poverty line reached 19.3 million, or 17.75 percent of Indonesia's 220 million people. The unemployment rate reached 11.5 percent, or 11.9 million people, of the 120-million-strong work force.

Yudhoyono's government has also been under fire for its failure to resolve several human rights abuse cases, including the 2004 Munir murder case.

"But as shown by recent surveys, SBY's popularity is expected to increase despite the fact his government will be effective for only one and a half years, as parties busy themselves preparing for the 2009 elections starting next year," Eep said.

The lecturer argued that the nine political parties, including Golkar and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), would consistently support the government until 2008. He warned, however, that there was still a slim possibility that Golkar and PKS could withdraw their support for the government in their own efforts to win the 2009 general election.

"PKS has nothing to lose if it pulls its ministers out of the Cabinet. And despite Vice President Jusuf Kalla's chairmanship of Golkar, the looming disappointment over the recent reshuffle and among anti-Kalla factions will likely prompt the party to pull its support from the government some time next year," he said.

Riding the wave of post-reshuffle criticism, Crescent Star Party (PBB) legislator Ali Mochtar Ngabalin said his party was disappointed with Yudhoyono, who removed the party's leading figure, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, from Cabinet and was considering pulling another PBB member, Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban.

Meanwhile, Priyo Budi Santoso, a member of Golkar's executive board, said his party was now stuck in SBY's trap and must support the government despite having only one party member – Andi Mattalata – recruited into Cabinet as justice and human rights minister, replacing Hamid Awaluddin.

"We will consequently support the government until 2009, although Golkar was only given one more seat in Cabinet," he said, adding that Golkar had expected to obtain at least six more Cabinet seats.

No hope for the poor in cabinet reshuffle

Jakarta Post - May 9, 2007

HS Dillon, Jakarta – Following the "limited cabinet reshuffle", I sent a text message to three close friends – a prominent human rights activist, a brilliant economist and a budding politician – inquiring about the immediate prospects of Indonesia's poor?

Their responses: "professed intentions and unintended consequences?"; "look forward to a not-so-promising future"; and "it seems they'll continue to be poor, as the new lineup also stressed continuity, which also means continuity of poverty".

Where does this leave us, tax-paying, law-abiding citizens, who yearn for a more equitable society? It is undeniable that the announcement of the cabinet reshuffle does not appear to herald any meaningful change, let alone transformation, over the next two years. And all this despite the fact that many concerned Indonesians had tried hard to embolden their President, so that he could take measures to arrest the steady decline of trust in his administration.

They had pointed out that a number of polls revealed that, despite all the hardships, people still placed greater trust in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono than in most of the nation's institutions. With politicians being discredited almost every day, the President actually had a stronger hand. However, those who had expected a roar must have been very disappointed at what they heard.

Despite all his protestations, the man on the street clearly recognizes that the President has not managed to escape from the clutches of narrow political interests. It is a great tragedy that this Cabinet will most probably carry its congenital defects to the grave.

It is sad that Yudhoyono, too, is repeatedly heard defending his "constitutional rights" in selecting his cabinet. No mention at all is made of his "moral obligations" to the Indonesian people. The people catapulted him into the presidency because they had trust in him. They turned away from the political parties who had betrayed them time and again, based mainly on the promises he made to "transform" the country.

Tens of millions had seen one president after another professing to don reformasi robes, but preferring the company of conglomerates, and cavorting in state palaces all over the world, rather than fraternizing with our poor. A collusion of capitalist interests, both domestic and foreign, in the guise of rescuing the economy, had shifted all the odious debts of the "black conglomerates" onto the shoulders of the poor.

Billions of dollars were poured into the insolvent banks, which then simply walked away with the funds. Basic services like food, healthcare and education were severely curtailed, as the state budget assumed the burden. In so many words, the ailing, semi- illiterate younger generations were expected to repay the debts of these "black conglomerates" who absconded with the country's money, with the contrivance of senior officials – politicians, bankers and law enforcers.

Other Indonesians seem baffled by the stance adopted by the President in forming and maintaining his Cabinet. A number of portfolios which could prove to be very instrumental in enhancing the earning capacity of people, and thereby swaying voters, namely agriculture, small and medium enterprises, and youth affairs, have been left in the hands of political parties who have their own agendas, which at some point in the future might prove to be very different from the President's.

Equally disturbing, many of these parties are espousing sectarian policies, showing complete disdain for the basic tenets of the pluralism this country is founded upon. Given his military background, Yudhoyono's supporters had expected a staunch pro- Republic position. Since he is well-educated and known for his honesty, voters hoped Yudhoyono had already formulated very sound strategies to deliver on his promises.

They placed their trust in him, hoping he would lead the country out of its state of despair. They, who had grown weary of the reformasi that had only amounted to a reallocation of power among the elite, wanted strong leadership that would in the not-too- distant future allow Indonesia to catch up to Malaysia in terms of development. Yudhoyono had given them cause to dream once again.

After witnessing a cabinet without any teamwork, its two top leaders constantly vying with each other, ministers living a life of luxury amidst teeming poverty, who will the disenfranchised turn to in the next elections? It would come as no surprise if the ministers were to shift the blame to the President for his indecisive leadership, while claiming credit for the programs they had implemented.

Most of his supporters fear that maintaining a cabinet divided among itself is tantamount to political suicide. Yesterday's editorial in this daily refers to "professed" supporters holding cabinet seats as "Trojan Horses", whose true colors will only be revealed at the end of Yudhoyono's term.

Please do some soul-searching, Mr. President, and try also to look into the hearts of our poor. Surely you will never be able to come to peace with yourself if the majority of Indonesians feel that you, too, abandoned them. There are many good Indonesians across all levels of society – in fact you have a number of them in your cabinet.

Identify these good souls, enter into equal partnerships with them; also help them forge meaningful partnerships among themselves. Leading by example, you can instill a sense of urgency by pointing out how we are slipping behind even countries like Vietnam. Remind them of the sacrifices made by founders of the Republic, and they will surely rally to the cause. If you manage to transcend self, and embark on the path of shared leadership, you might very well go down in history as the first Indonesian president to break the inter-generational transmission of poverty.

If a people-driven development paradigm is implemented, such that all policies formulated, institutions established and technologies developed or transferred, are driven by the needs and capacities of the weakest of our people, the dreams that our independence heroes died for will come true. We will have a just and prosperous society, and our people will live in dignity. Move fast, Mr. President, Indonesia has no more time to lose.

[The writer is senior governance adviser at the Center for Agriculture and Poverty-Alleviation Support, Jakarta.]

Skepticism, disappointment loom over reshuffle

Jakarta Post - May 9, 2007

Imanuddin Razak, Jakarta – Skepticism and disappointment have dominated discussions of the latest reorganization of the United Indonesia Cabinet.

While the reshuffle mainly focused on cabinet posts with highly- sensitive political and legal connections, the move by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday to replace only one member of his 10-strong economic team, State Minister for State Enterprises Sugiharto, has been criticized as wimpy decision.

"To me, the (latest) reshuffle is politically heavy as it fails to help drive reform in the non-financing (industrial) sector of our economy, which has long been stagnant," chief coordinator of Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) Teten Masduki told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

"We also cannot neglect the possibility of a tug-of-war among political parties as the State Ministry for State Enterprises controls a huge amount of assets," Teten said, while adding that state enterprises had frequently been treated as cash cows by ruling governments.

Sugiharto said recently that the total nationwide assets of state-owned enterprises nationwide could be worth more than Rp 5 trillion (US$563 billion).

But he did not set aside Sugiharto's poor performance, noting that it had been particularly lacking in the divestments of PT Semen Gresik, telecommunications company Indosat and gas company PGN. "Don't forget that we sold those companies' shares cheap."

Economic observer Ichsanuddin Noorsy said the economy would not change much following the reshuffle as the government's economic team remained the same.

"I call it a half-hearted reshuffle and it will result in continuing unemployment," Noorsy said, as quoted by Antara. "It means that President SBY maintains unemployment and tends to favor the market, not the people," he added.

Yudhoyono's move to remove two ministers from the United Development Party (PPP) has disappointed the party. "We are unable to hide our disappointment. We are deeply disappointed," PPP chairman Suryadharma Ali told the media at the House of Representatives here Tuesday.

He was referring to Sugiharto and State Minister for the Development of Disadvantaged Regions Syaifullah Yusuf, who were replaced by non-PPP members Sofyan A. Djalil and Muhammad Lukman Eddy.

The PPP finished fourth in the 2004 legislative elections with 9,248,764 votes (8.15 percent of the overall vote) after the Golkar Party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and the National Awakening Party. It was well above Yudhoyono's Democratic Party, which came fifth with 8,455,225 votes (7.45 percent of the vote).

Hamdan Zoelva, chairman of the Crescent Star Party, who lost Abdulrahman Saleh and Yusril Ihza Mahendra in the reshuffle, said Tuesday the party's executive board would hold a meeting Thursday to decide whether to withdraw or maintain its support for Yudhoyono. "It's not a problem of having representatives in the cabinet... but a violation of the commitment made by SBY," Hamdan said.

While strongly criticized in the economic sector, Yudhoyono's move to put Hendarman Supandji at the helm of the Attorney General's Office, replacing Abdulrahman Saleh, has drawn hopes that the government will perform better in law enforcement.

"SBY should not stop at reshuffling the cabinet, but continue with prosecuting Yusril and Hamid Awaluddin," ICW coordinator for court monitoring Emerson Yuntho said, as quoted by detik.com news portal.

Both Yusril and former justice minister Hamid Awaluddin have been in the spotlight over allegations they helped Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, son of former president Soeharto, to withdraw US$10 million from the London branch of Bank Nationale de Paris Paribas despite strong evidence the money had been obtained through illegal channels.

Meanwhile, chairwoman of the Jakarta Legal Institute Asfinawati expressed hope that the Attorney General's Office could uncover the truth behind the 2004 murder of rights activist Munir Said Thalib and the alleged corruption surrounding foundations belonging to former president Soeharto.

Sugiharto's departure attracts praise, anger

Jakarta Post - May 9, 2007

Ary Hermawan, Jakarta – The replacement of Sugiharto as state minister for state enterprises by Sofyan Djalil, who previously served as information and communications minister, in the recent Cabinet shake-up by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been cheered by some analysts and condemned by others.

"Under Sugiharto's leadership over the last two years, the total revenues of state enterprises rose from Rp 10 trillion in 2004 to Rp 15 trillion in 2006," respected Gadjah Mada University economist Sri Adiningsih was quoted as saying Tuesday by Antara.

She criticized the President for lacking a clear agenda in his latest Cabinet reshuffle, saying Sugiharto's dismissal was "unreasonable". "We don't know whether his successor will do any better," she said.

"He may have succeeded in increasing state revenues from nationalized firms, but he definitely failed to create good governance in the SOEs," argued Fadhil Hasan of the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), adding that Sugiharto had "terrible communication skills."

He referred to Sugiharto's inability to prevent the free fall of the price of state-owned gas distribution company, PT Perusahaan Gas Negara's stocks, when slumped by 23.3 percent from Rp 9,650 to Rp 7,400 in January due to its failure to immediately disclose material information concerning a delay in one of its pipeline projects.

The scandal also caused a fall in the prices of other SOE shares on the stock exchange as investors were spooked by fears that other SOEs were also not being transparently managed.

There were rumors that Sugiharto was involved in the case, but he has denied the accusations. "I'm ready to be questioned. But I know that I have never done anything wrong against this country," he was quoted by the Detik.com newsportal when asked if he would be summoned by the authorities to answer the allegations against him.

The BUMN Watch organization and a number of NGOs welcomed the replacement of Sugiharto, saying they were pleased with the President's decision.

"We are thankful as the President has listened to our views. We don't care who replaces him, as long as he is a professional and not driven by particular political interests," said the watchdog's chairman, Naldy Nazar Haroen.

He said Sugiharto was guilty of what he claimed were acts of illegally replacing top officials in some SOEs, including the suspension of the entire board of directors of state-owned coal mining firm PT Bukit Asam.

The manner in which he dealt with a leadership crisis in state- owned social security firm PT Jamsostek also disappointed the firm's labor union.

Fadhil said Sofyan would now need to be able to promote good corporate governance in SOE management. "He should clarify the roles of the ministry as a regulator, cut ineffective bureaucracy and dare to give autonomy to those SOEs that are healthy," Fadhil told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

He added that Sofyan would also need to speed up the efforts to restructure debt-ridden state firms that were continuously bleeding red ink. While welcoming Sofyan's suggestion that all SOEs be privatized, Fadhil said that what mattered in the short term was making the SOEs more transparent and efficient.

Yusril, Hamid targeted for investigation

Jakarta Post - May 9, 2007

Jakarta – Although he has yet to officially assume his new post as Attorney General, Hendarman Supandji has already issued statements on his law enforcement priorities.

Speaking to journalists at his current office, the outgoing junior attorney general for special crimes hinted Tuesday that he would take a careful stance in handling high-profile legal cases, such as corruption cases surrounding the family of former president Soeharto.

"I will first examine the corruption allegations involving (former state minister) Yusril Ihza Mahendra and (former justice minister) Hamid Awaluddin," Hendarman said, as quoted by detik.com news portal.

"If there is no indication that corruption has occurred, (Yusril and Hamid) might have only committed procedural violations. Why should I pursue the case then?" he added.

Hendarman was referring to media reports that had put Yusril and Hamid at the center of the controversy regarding their alleged roles in helping the youngest son of Soeharto, Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra, withdraw US$10 million from the London branch of Bank Nationale de Paris Paribas in 2004.

The case was controversial as the French bank had first asked the Indonesian government to clarify the legal status of the money prior to transferring it. And Hendarman's predecessor Abdulrahman Saleh had hinted before that the money was obtained through legal channels.

Hendarman, however, took a bold stance regarding the corruption case, which allegedly involves Soeharto himself.

"The Attorney General's Office has issued an order to permanently terminate the investigation (into Soeharto's corruption allegations). And the court has issued a ruling that legalized the office's decision, what else do you expect?" he said.

It was also during the leadership of Abdulrahman that the Attorney General's Office had planned to file a civil lawsuit against Soeharto over the alleged misuse of charitable funds.

Abdulrahman had said that they would file a lawsuit over the alleged mismanagement of one of seven charitable foundations set up and chaired by the former leader.

Due to ill health, Soeharto, 85, has never taken the stand for the corruption charges leveled against him in 2000.

These accuse him of misusing more than US$500 million from charitable foundations – separate to the billions in state assets he is also alleged to have siphoned off. The only corruption cases that Hendarman will apparently pursue are the ones involving Indonesians currently taking shelter in neighboring Singapore.

"There are 15 (Indonesian) corruption suspects residing in Singapore. They will be extradited back home," he said.

Hendarman did not name them, but confirmed that they would be extradited following the Indonesian government's recent agreement with Singapore to establish an extradition treaty between the two neighbors.

Besides the above high-profile cases, the Attorney General's Office is currently handling corruption cases surrounding the 2000 cattle imports from Australia and 2001-2003 rice imports from Vietnam. The office has named and detained former chairman of the State Logistics Agency Widjanarko Puspoyo for both cases and his brother Widjokongko for the second case.

Apart from those corruption cases, the Attorney General's Office will likely be under strong public pressure to become involved in the investigation of the 2004 murder of rights activist Munir Said Thalib. The case is currently being handled by the police.

 Economy & investment

Finance minister's remarks raise fears

Jakarta Post - May 12, 2007

Andi Haswidi and Hendarsyah Tarmizi, Jakarta – It is still unclear whether the mistake was the finance minister's or the media's, but the recent remarks by Sri Mulyani appear to have put the chief economics minister and central bank governor into a serious spin.

Speaking during a press briefing Thursday, Finance Minister Mulyani said the current trend of high capital inflows and currency appreciation in Southeast Asia was similar to the situation that prevailed prior to the 1997 financial crisis.

The finance minister's remarks, which raised concerns that Indonesia might be on the verge of another financial meltdown, drew a quick response from Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono and Bank Indonesia Governor Burhanuddin Abdullah.

"We have reviewed the situation with the finance minister, Bank Indonesia governor and trade minister, and we have concluded that the country's economic fundamentals are quite solid," Boediono told reporters after a breakfast meeting at the Finance Ministry.

He stressed that there was no "imminent threat" to the Indonesian economy as all the economic indicators were strengthening.

Speaking to reporters separately following the briefing, which was also attended by the finance minister and Trade Minister Mari Pangestu, Central Bank Governor Burhanuddin said that given the prevailing economic indicators, there were no signs that the economy was weakening.

"All the economic indicators show that the chances that a repeat of the 1997 financial crisis will take place are quite remote," he said.

Although the finance minister said that her statement had been misunderstood, some economic analysts supported her comments.

Institute for Development of Economics and Finance director Iman Sugema, who is well-known for his criticism of the government's economic team, said that the current economic situation was actually graver than in 1997. "The amount of hot money is so massive, just wait until the crisis hits," he said as quoted by Detik news portal.

He argued that even though the government claimed that the country's economic fundamentals were in good shape, they were in reality worse than in 1997 as much of the short-term foreign funds were not invested in the real sector, making a quick exit even easier.

The fear of sudden capital flight is not totally unfounded. Recently, global rating agency Fitch Ratings said Indonesia's forex reserves – the lowest at present among the Southeast Asian nations after the Philippines – are a "worry" as they leave the economy vulnerable to capital flight.

Also, Bank Indonesia admitted last month the possibility of capital outflows of up to US$10 billion short-term foreign funds, made up of about $1.5 billion in foreign holdings of central bank bills, $5.5 billion in foreign holdings of government bonds and the remainder in foreign stock-market holdings.

However, BI argued that the country's total reserves of about $51 billion (far high than $17 billion prior to the 1997 crisis) should be big enough to withstand the pressure should the $10 billion in question suddenly take flight.

Another analyst, Aviliani, said that rising private sector debt could jeopardize the economy should the rupiah collapse against the US dollar. "The government must keep control of the foreign exchange rate. There has to be an early warning system for private sector debt," she said.

BI figures show that the private sector's offshore debt increased to $51.1 billion as of the end of December from $50 billion at the end of September, which stands in contrast to the decline in the country's sovereign debt to $74.1 billion as of the end of December from $83.3 billion at the end of March 2006.

Industrial sector not yet ready for fresh loans: Bankers

Jakarta Post - May 10, 2007

Ary Hermawan, Jakarta – The chairman of the National Banks Association (Perbanas), Sigit Pramono, has pinned the blame squarely on the shoulder of businesses for the slow lending growth in the real sector.

Speaking during the opening of the Asia Pacific Conference and Exhibition (Apconex) on Wednesday, Sigit argued that the industrial sector was not yet ready to receive loans.

The sector, especially the ailing textile subsector, needed to undergo a major restructuring to ensure sufficient bankability for the extending of fresh loans.

Sigit, who is also the president director of state-owned Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI), had earlier said that fresh lending by local banks to the country's industrial sector had actually been high enough of late, amounting to some Rp 170 trillion (about US$18.8 billion).

However, he pointed out that the greater part of the funds had not been drawn down by the borrowers. "The high level of loans that have not been drawn down indicates that the problems hampering the lending growth to the real sector do not merely concern interest rates, but also other factors, such as those related to the businesses of the borrowers," he said.

Local banks have come under a sustained barrage of criticism for their alleged reluctance to extend loans to the industrial sector. Instead of lending to the real sector, the banks have preferred to park their funds in Bank Indonesia's short-term SBI notes and government bonds, or to focus on the consumer-finance sector.

"The banks have actually been quite aggressive in channeling loans to the real sector. It is just that industry still does not have the capacity to make use of the loans, as shown by the large amount of loans that have not been drawn down," he said.

Bank Indonesia deputy governor Miranda Goeltom said the banking industry continued to improve, with a significant increase in lending over the past few months.

Total lending, she said, rose by 16.7 trillion to Rp 843 trillion as of the end of March from Rp 826.3 trillion as of the end of February thanks to the fall in lending rates to between 13 and 14 percent from between 16 and 18 percent last year.

Of the Rp 16.7 trillion in fresh loans, about Rp 13.3 trillion, or 79 percent, were extended for working capital purposes, about Rp 800 billion, or 4.8 percent, for investment purposes, and about Rp 2.8 trillion, or 16.7 percent, as consumer-finance loans.

In his address to the conference, Vice President Jusuf Kalla again criticized the banks for not doing enough to support the country's small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

He accused the banks of favoring large corporations and neglecting small businesses.

"The big companies have no problem at all in getting loans, and, sometimes, quite cheap loans. On the other hand, SMEs find it difficult to get loans, and they are also quite expensive. Where is the justice in this country?" he said.

Big companies are generally charged 12 percent interest on their borrowings, while SMEs have to pay 24 percent, he said. "It's not fair. They are making profits from the small people by charging them a higher rate," he complained.

 Opinion & analysis

Islamic law by the back door

BBC News - May 11, 2007

Lucy Williamson, Jakarta – Half an hour's drive from Indonesia's parliament, the civilian police in the district of Tangerang go on patrol every evening.

A dozen men, crammed into the back of a pick-up truck, cruise the dimly-lit streets, looking for anywhere serving alcohol or any woman they think might be a prostitute. The municipal government in Tangerang has banned both alcohol and "any behaviour that suggests prostitution".

It is one of a number of districts which, despite the fact Indonesia is a secular state, have recently brought in local Islamic-style laws.

On the night of my visit, the patrol was doing spot-checks on the night-time vegetable market, some food stalls near a busy road and a patch of scrubland the police say is a favourite spot for sex workers. They found nothing. But many people in the area say it is not only prostitutes who get picked up by the patrol.

Lilis lives with her husband and two children on the outskirts of Tangerang. Just over a year ago, she was arrested by the civilian police while waiting for a taxi on her way home from work. The police could not reach her husband, so Lilis was fined and jailed as a prostitute.

She told me the arrest had left her shocked and traumatised, that she was now afraid to go anywhere on her own, and that even when she was out with her husband, the sight of the civilian police sent her into a panic.

Fear of arrest

Since her arrest, Lilis has lost her job, and has had to move house. She rarely goes out in public now, and has begun wearing a headscarf in the hope it will make her less of a target.

"My daughter is afraid to go too far from the house," Lilis told me. "She's afraid people will talk about her the way people talked about me." "The authorities say they only catch prostitutes, but that's not true. Lots of women simply come back late from work or school."

Tangerang is an industrial area, and the evening shift at many of the factories here finishes late – sometimes 10 or 11pm.

One of the problems, say campaigners, is that the regulation against prostitution is worded vaguely – it simply bans any behaviour that suggests prostitution, and that means it is down to individual patrols to judge whether a woman is breaking the law.

But the head of Tangerang's patrol, Pak Lutfi, told me that the civilian police was being blamed unfairly. "We look for prostitutes," he told me. "For instance those who stand in improper places, who don't stand at bus stops. We're sure they're prostitutes but ultimately we let the judge decide."

But it is not only the way in which these laws are being enforced that is sparking a debate. Many civil and human rights groups are challenging them on constitutional grounds as well.

One of those campaigning for their abolition is Musdah Mulia, head of the Council on Religious Pluralism. "We would like the government to uphold the values of democracy," she told me, "and to be firm towards any attempt to divert from democracy".

"There's a lack of understanding in our society over what constitutes democracy," she explained. "And there's also abuse of regional autonomy; now a lot of groups at local level have used regional autonomy to pass laws based on sharia law."

Since the fall of the former President Suharto a decade ago, more and more power has been devolved to local governments. Campaigners like Mulia say that local laws which ban alcohol on religious grounds, or target women in this way, contravene Indonesia's constitution.

Local support

But the problem for people like Mulia is that these kind of rules are proving popular. In the streets of Tangerang, most of those out eating supper at the roadside stalls were broadly positive.

"I agree with it," one man said. "I'm a Muslim. Alcohol and prostitution damages the society and the religion." His neighbour agreed. "It's a good law," she said. "Prostitution and alcohol have to be banned. If not, the youth here will be lured into doing bad things. We need to give them a good example."

But another woman thought it was important to educate the police to carry out the rules fairly. "Sometimes the wrong people get caught, so we need to look at how the law is enforced," she said.

The popularity of these regulations is adding to the government's headache. It has been under growing pressure to take a stand – to decide once and for all whether local authorities are over- stepping their powers.

But the country's leaders have so far been reluctant to get involved. And while they look the other way, Indonesia's rules are changing.

Jakarta row hampers infrastructure plans

Asia Times - May 12, 2007

Bill Guerin, Jakarta – A rumbling row between Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla and two top technocrats charged with overseeing economic policy is hampering the implementation of the government's infrastructure spending drive and generating high- level political tensions.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono reportedly came under extraordinary political pressure from Kalla's camp to shake up his economic team during a highly anticipated cabinet reshuffle announced this week. However, Coordinating Minister for the Economy Boediono and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, both US-trained economists who have locked horns with Kalla in recent months, were significantly left in their posts.

Both ministers – neither of whom is directly affiliated with any political party – have strongly argued that economic policymaking should be insulated from politics to ensure economic and financial stability. Boediono currently oversees Indonesia's economic and finance portfolios, while Mulyani, a former executive director for the International Monetary Fund overseeing 12 economies in Southeast Asia, is responsible for the national budget and macroeconomic policy.

The two technocrats have over the past year driven a wedge between Yudhoyono and Kalla, highlighting the two leaders' sometimes divergent views on how best to guide the national economy and combat endemic official graft. Kalla has accused both technocrats of restraining the economy, particularly through their reluctance to disburse government funds for spending programs.

Yudhoyono and Kalla had earlier apparently agreed to a sort of division of labor over the executive branch, where the business- minded vice president would oversee broad economic policy, and the more bureaucratically oriented president would handle matters related to politics, national security and broad national strategies. As chairman of the military-affiliated Golkar party – Indonesia's largest and most powerful political organization – Kalla is known to have strong negotiating leverage inside Yudhoyono's government.

However, Kalla's control over economic management was significantly weakened in December 2005 when his close political associates, Aburizal Bakrie and Jusuf Anwar, were shuffled out of their respective cabinet positions of coordinating minister for the economy and finance minister. (Bakrie was maintained as coordinating minister for welfare, a move viewed by many political analysts as a Yudhoyono concession to Kalla.)

Widely viewed as Yudhoyono's proxies, Boediono and Indrawati have openly clashed with Kalla and his business-minded political associates. Boediono was reportedly offered a seat in Yudhoyono's first cabinet formed after his 2004 election victory, but declined the offer because the business-linked Bakrie was also tapped to be part of the president's economic team.

Kalla, the former chief executive officer of his family's sprawling NV Hadji Kalla conglomerate, which has interests spanning hotels, telecoms, construction, shipping, real estate, transportation and agriculture, has as a politician portrayed himself as a champion of small business and the rural poor.

He has earned praise from local business lobby groups, particularly for his efforts to goad the country's banks to pump their excess liquidity into the local economy and stimulate economic growth, and he is widely viewed as a possible presidential candidate at the next general elections in 2009. He has favored ramping up spending on new infrastructure, including roads, railroads and power plants.

Media criticism

At the same time, Kalla and Bakrie have been stung by media criticism of big state infrastructure contracts that their respective families' businesses have won through allegedly opaque bidding procedures. Kalla's pat response to allegations of a potential conflict of interest between his public office and his family's private interests is that he cannot prevent his relatives from doing business.

One case stands out in particular, which has brought him into direct conflict with Boediono and Mulyani. Headed by Kalla's younger brother, Achmad Kalla, PT Bukara Teknik Utama, together with two small state-owned enterprises and Germany's Siemens Technology Inc, won a US$498 million contract to develop supporting technology for the financially wobbly Jakarta monorail project.

The project's main developer, PT Jakarta Monorail, which tendered the contract to Bukara, was directly appointed by the government without a tender. Critics contend that the deal is in violation of several regulations on open bidding and transparency that govern state infrastructure construction and management projects. Kalla later pushed for a government financial guarantee for the project, but Mulyani refused the request last August.

Kalla later redirected the guarantee request to the government's special Policy Committee on the Acceleration of Infrastructure (KKPPI), among whose members are top central-bank officials, the leaders of various big state-owned enterprises, and five cabinet ministers, including Mulyani. In his previous capacity as coordinating minister for the economy, Bakrie had established the KKPPI in February 2005.

Now chaired by the more circumspect Boediono, the committee also refused to endorse the government guarantee, arguing that it did not meet certain government-specified requirements. In a huff, Kalla retorted that the KKPPI's job was to accelerate projects, not delay them. Apparently fearing a full-blown political conflict, Yudhoyono intervened to break the impasse by issuing a presidential regulation last December that paved the way for a sovereign guarantee over the monorail project.

Bukaka was also involved in the recent controversial purchase of 12 German-made helicopters, which were procured for the Kalla-led National Disaster Management Coordinating Board (Bakornas). Officially the Bukaka Group ordered the helicopters, but when the Finance Ministry refused to pay the bill on the grounds that normal import procedures were not followed, Bukaka ended up footing the bill. Customs officials under Mulyani's Ministry of Finance later seized the shipment when Bukaka refused to pay import duties on the helicopters. With the president's agreement, Kalla finally intervened to have the helicopters released, and they were subsequently leased – reportedly without a tender process – to Bakornas to fight forest fires.

Crash contracts

Kalla's critics note that Indonesia's Presidential Regulation No 8/2006 requires open bidding for all government procurement projects valued at more than Rp50 million ($5,500) unless they are linked to national security or emergency situations. Under a so-called "crash-start program" launched last year, however, the government approved fast-track construction for a number of coal-fired power projects worth $8 billion, many of which were contracted without a tendering process.

Under that program – which was reportedly derived from a proposal by Achmad Kalla, head of the Bukaka group, to expedite the tendering of the projects – the government has directly appointed several local contractors to speed up the plants' construction.

One of the appointed contractors was infrastructure firm PT Bosowa Energi, part of the Bosowa Group, a diversified conglomerate with businesses that include a turnpike operator owned by Kalla's brother-in-law, Aksa Mahmud, who coincidentally is also deputy Speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly. The company is on line to construct a 200-megawatt power plant in Kalla's home province of South Sulawesi.

All of these projects jibe with Kalla's bold brand of economic nationalism. He has said that Indonesia should rely less on developed countries and once asserted that the country had become too dependent on foreign consultants for devising new development programs. That particular speech was made at an informal gathering of Indonesians living in Tokyo in January 2006, where he reportedly added: "We can do it on our own. We have plenty of smart people."

Those capable hands no doubt also include Boediono and Mulyani, who increasingly represent the only hard check on the country's Kalla-inspired ambitious infrastructure spending plans. To be sure, the government's spending drive has been hampered by bureaucratic red tape. Fewer than 10 of the 91 projects that were on offer at the country's first Infrastructure Summit in January 2005 have actually reached the construction phase. The other 80 or so are still bogged down in tender and pre-qualification stages. And none of the projects offered at the second summit last November have even reached the tender stage.

Yet Boediono and Mulyani arguably represent a prudent voice of economic reason. Speaking to investors at last year's summit, Boediono said that while the government wants to accelerate infrastructure development, its ability to do so is limited by budgetary constraints and that it was impossible to fund prudently all of Indonesia's infrastructure needs internally. "Current economic circumstances dictate the need to resort to private-sector participation, targeted mainly at injecting private finance into the infrastructure sector," he said.

With 2009 general elections now in view, Yudohoyono and Kalla have limited time to make good on their election pledges to stimulate economic growth and create desperately needed jobs. But Yudhoyono is also driven by his anti-corruption promises, and some suggest that he should take total control of the economic portfolio rather than using Boediono and Mulyani as proxies to temper Kalla's high-speed economic-growth ambitions.

It's a delicate dance that if politically mishandled, some political analysts believe, could result in the popular Kalla breaking away from Yudhoyono to pursue his own electoral bid for the presidency.

[Bill Guerin, a Jakarta correspondent for Asia Times Online since 2000, has been in Indonesia for more than 20 years, mostly in journalism and editorial positions. He specializes in Indonesian political, business and economic analysis, and hosts a weekly television political talk show, Face to Face, broadcast on two Indonesia-based satellite channels. He can be reached at softsell@prima.net.id.]

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